Hake, South African (MSC Certified)
Scientific nameMerluccius paradoxus and Merluccius capensis
Other namesStockfish, Cape whiting
CertificationApril 2004, recertified March 2010
Fishing methodDemersal trawl
Area of captureSouth Africa - FAO Area 47
SummarySouth African trawled hake is MSC-certified, which automatically places it on the SASSI green list.
Trawl fisheries targeting hake provide over half of the value of all fisheries in South Africa. The main export markets are Europe, Australia and the US. The offshore trawl fishery mostly targets deepwater Merluccius paradoxus on the shelf edge from the Namibian border southwards, whereas shallow water M. capensis is the target of the inshore trawl fishery, which operates mostly on the Agulhas Bank off the south coast. The two species overlap in their depth distribution, and both are found around the entire South African coast. Growth in both species is slow, and fish can reach 115cm. Hake are piscivorous as adults (i.e. eat other fish), feeding at night, whereas they aggregate near the bottom during the day, which is when they are targeted by trawlers.
Trawling in the hake directed fishery is in water depths of 50-800m. In general, the practice of trawling is known to cause damage to sea beds. However, to date, there is no conclusive data indicating the extent of the damage caused.
Historically, hake was assessed as a single species, as separation of catches was not possible. However, species-specific assessments are now being conducted. The shallow water M. capensis stock is above sustainable levels and catches below maximum sustainable levels. The deep-water M. paradoxus stock is below precautionary levels, and a rebuilding plan is in place.
A Deep-Sea Bycatch Management Plan has been drawn up and management measures, which include precautionary catch limits and seasonal closed areas, have been introduced through permit conditions to reduce the bycatch of monk and kingklip. Seabird bycatch (which was identified for the first time during the certification process) has fallen from 18 000 birds per year to approximately 8 000 seabirds per year through the introduction of tori lines (lines with streamers to discourage birds whilst hauling the trawl) and offal management.
An Operational Management Plan (OMP) is in place to allow the recovery of M. paradoxus stocks to sustainable levels within 20 years. A comprehensive Scientific Observer Programme has collected information on target and non-target species, the results of which have been fed into management and scientific advice. Furthermore, measures to reduce impacts on benthic habitat have been introduced, including ‘ring-fencing’ existing trawling grounds to reduce the amount of habitat affected. Surveillance capacity has also increased, and the entire hake fishing fleet is now covered by a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS).
For more information about this fishery have a look at the Marine Stewardship Council`s website, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.